Vallourec debuts additively manufactured equipment for offshore energy industry

April 30, 2021

Vallourec’s additively manufactured waterbushing is half the weight (220 kg) of one manufactured traditionally and has been used on the EIG Elgin-Franklin rig in the North Sea (Courtesy Vallourec)

Vallourec, headquartered in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, has equipped energy company Total, Paris, France, with an additively manufactured waterbushing for the EIG Elgin-Franklin rig in the North Sea. The component – which measures 1.2 m high and weighs 220 kg – is reported to be the first ever pressure-containing component to be produced using Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM), a form of wire-based Directed Energy Deposition (DED).

Waterbushings are a safety-critical component used in the oil and gas drilling industry to counter hydrocarbon kicks from wells in construction. Their strength and reliability is paramount, as failure can result in equipment destruction.

“This is the first time that a safety-critical component has been created using Additive Manufacturing in the energy industry”, stated Edwige Ravry, Additive Manufacturing Lead at Total Manufacturing. “It was essential for us to have the right partner and a good business case. Vallourec, as a longstanding partner, provided us with that confidence.”

“The project came out of an open innovation collaboration with RAMLAB, a Rotterdam-based startup,” explained Bertrand Maillon, Additive Manufacturing Business Development Manager, Vallourec. “The aim of this project was to go beyond Proof of Concept to successfully develop the Quality Assurance and Quality Control frame of supply for components using WAAM technology.”

The manufacturing process developed leveraged Vallourec’s decades-long experience in welding, metallurgy and non-destructive examination together with strengths in threading, coating and pressure testing to enable manufacturing of components to customers’ exact specifications. Vallourec worked with Total to deliver the project in just over a year using WAAM, rigorously testing the product before field deployment in February.

The use of AM offered a unique freedom of shape and lightweighting compared to traditional manufacturing; this component is around half the weight of a typical waterbushing. It is generates 45% less greenhouse gas emissions than one produced from forging and machining, something of particular interest to Total, which is aiming for, at least, a 60% reduction in its carbon impact by 2050.

Andrew Heddle, Drilling & Wells QA/QC Lead at Total Exploration & Production UK, added, “Additive Manufacturing has the potential to revolutionise the O&G supply chain by enabling companies like Total to order made-to-measure components as and when they are needed.”

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